Daily Archives: October 16, 2008


In Greenwich we’d have just tasered the little trouble maker.
9 year old schizophrenic school girl tossed in jail cell

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There goes the neighborhood! Hedge funds to cut 10,000 jobs. The article also says $43 billion of investors’ money has been yanked out of those funds, so far. Do you know how much Greenwich office space is occupied by hedge funds? And how many of those buildings are owned by foreign REITS? Neither do I, but I’ll bet the answer is, “a whole bunch”, and I know that, when REITS feel the pressure, they look to dump foreign assets for whatever they can get. That may cause rents to drop, but if rent drops in a vacant office building, does anyone hear?

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19 Farley Street
Buy this house now, $1.045 million.
A reader asked about nice houses in the million dollar range – this is one. Its builder, Al Oliveira, does great work. I met Al when he and Rick Hvolbeck did just a stellar job on Pal Nancy’s house, replacing work that had been done by far less talented carpenters in the past. If his workmanship displayed there is typical of his other work, and I’m sure it is, then this house was built well and tight. It certainly appeared to be when I toured it.

This was priced originally at $1.595 and, a year ago, that would have been a fair price. Now, after several price reductions that have dropped it below what it cost to build, it can be had for a hair over $1.0 million. That’s an excellent buy and no, it’s not my listing. But I’ll be glad to sell it to you – give me a call.
Update: someone said she couldn’t find the house on Raveis.com. It is a Weikert listing, but here are the details as posted by Raveis:19 farley Street, ML# 69428

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230 Bedford Road

I really liked this house, way up near the end of Bedford Road, when it first came on the market in May of 2003. I didn’t like its price, $5.9 million and neither did anyone else – it finally sold for $4.0 million a year later. The new owners have “renovated” it (open house is scheduled for next Tuesday, when we’ll have a chance to see how encompassing that term is) and have placed it back on the market for $5.5 million. We’ll see how that goes but the house does illustrate that wildly overpricing houses was happening in 2003, too.

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Funny
Somewhere, a young lawyer is crying for help.

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More on 25 Beechcroft
Peter Janis, listing agent for this house, is miffed hopping mad. He called today to point out that I haven’t been in the house to appreciate its quality and that, in his opinion, the price of this house has nothing to do with “the numbers”. With deference to Peter, whom I like and know to be a good, knowledgeable agent, I think numbers do control for at least two reasons. First is the affect a sale across the street for $6.2 has on a house going for $7.950. The lower priced house may indeed be, as someone described it, “a total fiasco” but what does the buyer know? Two 9,000 sq. ft houses, both brand new, one on a pond and the other across the street from it, how much does a little body of water add in value? I suspect that the answer is, “not $1,750,000”. One can point out all the special features in a house, its superb quality and its great flow, all for naught. At least in my experience, the buyer will still ask, “so why would I pay that much more? They both have plasma TVs in the master bedroom, right?”

The second reason numbers count is that bank appraisers count them. These guys can’t get into the houses they base their comps on so they mostly ignore special details built into the house they’re examining. Does #16’s construction match that of #25? They don’t know, so they don’t care. They look for the most recent sale in the neighborhood, calculate its square footage and age, toss a little pixie dust into the air and presto! They have a value. In this case, the appraiser need merely look across the street to see a house the same size and age of the subject property and, when he learns that it sold just last week for $6.2 million, he’s going to be inclined to value the house he’s appraising at close to the same price. Or so I think. I’m wrong on all sorts of things (like how to spell Patrick Daniel Moynihan) and I could be all wet on this one. I don’t want to see Peter or his listing encounter difficulty; I pointed out the two houses merely to illustrate what I fear will become the dreaded domino effect in Greenwich housing, as more spec builders dump their projects for whatever they can get.

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Well Darn!
There were 6-8 comments lined up waiting this morning for posting. I clicked on them and then pushed “reject” instead of “publish” (the buttons on my iPhone are too small for a clumsy-fingered guy like me) and now they’re …who knows where rejected electrons go? Anyway, sorry – please write again.

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29 Irvine, OG
Two Sales of Note

29 Irvine sold yesterday for $2,150,000 which is a little less than 75% of what was asked for back in May and possibly far less than its original price in January – I can’t tell; all records of the original price, except for the date of the listing contract, have disappeared from the Greenwich Multiple Listing Service’s records. Would the GMLS expunge records? You tell me.

3 Old farms Road (north of the Post Road, in Old Greenwich)sold for $1,525,000, 76% of its original asking price back in April, $1,995,000 and $225,000 less than they paid for it ($1,750,000) in August, 2003. Ouch.

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Lies, damn lies and statistics.
A real estate columnist in my old paper writes today that

“The Pending Home Sales Index representing contracts signed in August increased 7.4% from an upward revision in July and is 8.8% higher than August 2007.”

That would certainly be encouraging, if it were accurate, and I’m confident that her paper will receive no complaints from its real estate advertisers about her column. And that, according to the paper’s editor and publisher, is precisely the point.

But what if readers are being delivered a wheelbarrow full of dung? Here are the real statistics for Greenwich contracts.

July, 2008: 39; July, 2007: 40. Call it a draw.
August, 2008: 22; August, 2007: 46. That’s 48% down, not 8.8% higher, by my math (and, though I don’t pretend to understand what an “upward revision from July” means, Aug. ’08’s contracts represent a 56% decline from the preceding month, not a 7.4% increase).
September, 2008: 24; September, 2007: 33 – 28% decline
October 1-17, 2008: 6; October 1-17, 2007: 17 – 65% decline.

The last Democrat I admired (and probably ever will), Daniel Patrick Moynahan Moynihan, once said, “everyone’s entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” At least one paper in town didn’t get that memo.

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NYT: House prices have a long way (down) to go. Darn it, that ol’ pessimist IB’er who plagues these pages must have gotten to them!
I’m kidding about our local Casandra of course and besides – in my darker moments I completely agree with him. One thing to note in the article is the “home price vs. rent ratio”. According to experts, whoever they are, that ratio should be 15:1 and in parts of Florida it’s still as high as 22:1, indicating plenty of room for more deterioration. What good are ratio’s like this? Well, an earlier commentator on this blog noted that the price to earnings ratio was still way above historical levels and predicted that stocks would continue to fall. He was right.
I really don’t know what Greenwich’s sales to rent ratio is but I’ll find that out today (hey – it’s early, gimme a break) and post it here. I’m guessing that it’s way above 15.

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Bye, Bye!
Sternberg Quits
Our School Superintendent announced yesterday that she will not seek to have her employment contract renewed. She leaves in June.
Well, even if her students can’t, now we know that Sternberg can read writing on the wall.
Time to consider Peter Tesei’s (and others’) idea of selecting our next Superintendent from among the ranks of our current principals, who presumably know the town, its students and the parents. And if none do, who are we hiring as our principals?

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London Bridge (to NYC) is falling down This Britisher looks at the falling pound and Euro, examines this years sales of expensive New York condos to Europeans and concludes that the New York real estate business is about to fall on hard times . Perhaps he’s hysterical [a newspaper reporter? You’re kidding,right? Ed.] but bad news for that market is bad news for ours. Who do you think is, after selling their city co-ops, plunking the cash down here?

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Politics for a Change! Biden funnels $2,000,000 campaign loot to family . But don’t worry: Aides to Mr. Biden said all of the payments he has made to family members or their employers were aboveboard.

Well that’s a relief. I was worried that, after only 38 years in Washington, the man had been corrupted!

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